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Is It Dangerous to Drive on Underinflated Tires?

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Represent Those Injured in Tire-Related Car Accidents .

Underinflated or damaged tires on an automobile are similar to an ailment. Your ailment may not be all that bad at the current moment, but ignoring it for too long could cause you serious problems down the road.

The difference, however, is that with damaged tires, it might not take as long for you to fall into serious trouble. Even something as simple as an underinflated tire could cause a car accident, and with an accident, there is always a chance that you will be critically injured.  

Some people will ignore low tire pressure and warning signals. Most likely, they will address the issue when the time is right, and that is exactly when the danger begins. Thus, you may want to reconsider waiting to fix a tire.

In the same way that you would not want to ignore an ailment, an underinflated tire is the warning signal that you should pay attention. An underinflated tire could be a ticking time bomb: you never know when it is going to go off and cause serious damage. 

When traveling at high speeds, your car is in a precarious situation if your tires are not at their best. Moreover, if your car is in danger, you are in danger. It is for that reason that you should know the dangers of riding on underinflated or damaged tires.

Underinflated tires cause tire failures, and tire failures cause accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2020, there were 664 traffic fatalities caused by tire-related crashes. The NHTSA reported that the most common causes of tire failure are blowouts, baldness, tread separation, and worn down treads, all of which could occur from riding on underinflated tires.

What Causes Low Tire Pressure?

It is common knowledge that cold weather reduces the pressure in your tires. In fact, according to most sources, a tire loses anywhere from one to two PSI for every temperature drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summertime, driving at high speeds on hot roadways is what causes your tires to deflate.  

It is always important to consider normal wear and tear. According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), experts in the automotive field claim that under normal driving conditions, tires may lose one to two PSI per month. According to the same report, underinflated tires cause handling problems for drivers that can lead to injuries and deaths.

Careless or negligent driving causes your tire pressure to go down as well. The more stress you place on your tires, the more PSI you are going to lose. Negligent driving includes driving at high speeds, swerving in and out of lanes, taking sharp turns at ill-advised speeds, and braking too hard and too often.

How Does Underinflated Tires Affect Your Vehicle?

One of the most dangerous situations for a driver is a tire blowout. They are usually sudden and do not come with a warning sign. Low tire pressure is a common cause of tire blowouts. Due to low air pressure, heat in the tire builds up due to the increase in the tire’s flex. Under extreme heat, the rubber separates from the rest of the tire’s materials, and that will undoubtedly cause a tire blowout.

Low tire pressure is bad for your fuel as well. Compared to properly inflated tires, underinflated tires cause your vehicle to use more energy to maneuver. The energy to drive your car comes from the engine, which requires more fuel the harder you push it.

Low tire pressure has a direct effect on your vehicle’s performance. As noted previously, an underinflated tire causes the sidewalls to flex more than they can handle, especially when making sharp turns and braking. As your tires lose their stability, they lose their traction. The telltale signs are inadequate steering and braking. These problems could easily lead to an accident when having to react quickly.

The life of your tires is dependent on their maintenance, and like anything else that requires care, the life of your tires will be shorter if you neglect them. The low pressure will alter the tread of your tires, causing the wear in the tire to decrease dramatically. The wear usually happens equally on both the inner and outer shoulders of the tire. The result is the cost of new tires, which is not cheap.

How Can You Tell That Your Tire Pressure Is Low?

First and foremost, if your car is signaling to you that your tire pressure is low, you need to take it seriously and check it out. As of 2008, a law was put into effect for all newly manufactured vehicles to have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). A TPMS gives a warning that the PSI of a tire is too low. Unfortunately,  this will not appear until the air pressure is at least 25 percent lower than what is recommended by the manufacturer.

The best way for you to avoid wondering whether or not your air pressure is good is to check it yourself. You can pick up a decent tire pressure gauge at any auto parts store. To find the recommended PSI for your vehicle, check the doorjamb on the driver’s side or in the owner’s manual. Remember that the tires need to be cold for an accurate reading, so check them either before you take off or three hours after driving.

You could also stop at most service stations and use an air pump. This is good in a pinch, but do not rely on it when taking a long trip, as you never know if you are going to find a service stop with a functional air pump. You will also most likely not be able to wait until your tires cool down to take an accurate reading.

How Can You Maintain Your Tires to Avoid a Problem on the Road?

Low air pressure can cause damage to your tires, so the most important thing you can do is regularly check the air pressure. If it is wintertime, check your tires with every dramatic temperature drop, especially if you have used your car that day.

Consider the hot weather and how much driving you are doing on hot roadways. Also, take into consideration your driving habits. If you are rough on your vehicle, or if you drive long distances regularly,  you should check your air pressure more often.

While you are checking your air pressure, take the next step and thoroughly check each tire. You want to visibly check your tires for wear or damage. You should check for the most obvious to the least obvious problems. Make sure that no steel is showing on any tire. If so, replace the tire immediately, then check the tread.

A badly worn tread is usually obvious, but if you are not sure, you can take it to a service station or check it yourself using a penny. Place the penny in the crevice of the tread until the penny is touching the rubber, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it is time to change the tire.  

Rotating your tires is always a good idea, but if your vehicle has different size front and rear tires, it cannot be done. Lastly, you should get new tires when you are sure that you are past the recommended life of your tires or if you are having to constantly pump air in your tires.

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC  Represent Those Injured in Tire-Related Car Accidents

If you have been injured by a tire blowout or defective tire, you need competent legal representation. One of our experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC will protect your rights. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, Media, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.